Suspension tuned by Lotus, chassis development by renowned German engineering firm EDAQ and a power train drawing on F1 technology are just some of the class-leading features of an all-new model code-named GX currently being readied by Proton for UK launch in 2001.

Fitting into the Proton range above the current Wira range, the new model will initially be available only in four door form when it reaches the British market next Spring, although a number of derivatives of this upper-medium size saloon are currently under development at Proton's £62 million R & D Centre in Malaysia.

The first model to be designed from the ground up by Proton, the GX will be offered with a choice of 1.6 litre 16v Mitsubishi and 1.8 16v twin cam Renault petrol engines, while a super-green natural gas option has been developed for the Malaysian market.

It has also been revealed that a shorter stroke 1.8 litre version of the high performance petrol engine designed by Sauber Petronas Engineering utilising Formula One technology will be available in the GX at a later date.

Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned oil company, is expected to become the majority shareholder in Proton by the end of this year.

Although the new GX is likely to remain true to Proton's traditional brand values, with affordable prices and comprehensive specification backed by a reassuring warranty, the Malaysian manufacturer has aimed high in terms of quality and driver appeal.

A team of suspension experts from Lotus, in which Proton has a controlling interest, has been working in tandem with Malaysian engineers in Kuala Lumpur for the past three years to ensure that the GX offers class leading standards of ride and handling.

A Malaysian-based subsidiary company formed by EDAQ has also been closely involved in the development of the GX chassis to give the new car a firm European feel. The result is a car confidently benchmarked by Proton against such respected pacesetters as the Audi A4 and Honda Accord.